External considering (e.c.) is putting the other at the same level as myself. This goes back to the idea that all is equally important. And that means doing it without inner considering, that is without reading thoughts, without judgment or prejudice, and overall without the “what will he think about me if I do this or if I don’t do that?”
External considering is the result of a form of inner neutrality that can accommodate and “treat” all the circumstances and events of life internally, with equality, without interpretation. Conversely, I see the inner consideration as the result of our beliefs, judgments, emotions, habits, always with an “aftertaste” of personal interest.
In external considering, I consider my environment without considering my personal interest. This is going with: I consider the persons, what they do and the effects of my actions on them, but also the things and so also the effect of my actions on them, I take in account the informations, and I consider the place and act accordingly. So external considering = no personal interest + P. A. T. I. L.. Of course, I am part of the persons, I am not absent of the context but a stakeholder. External considering is having the eyes, the ears, the senses, open to the word of now, and live fully in this world. This is part of the natural effect of presence, that is not really conscious of the e.c. but that is conscious of the conscience. Doing a “stop” (whose power is a function of how serious the situation is 🙂 🙂 ) and “open” the eyes is a way to enter in e.c. consciously. Hmmm, it seems to me that I went over rather fast on “e.c. = no personal interest + P. A. T. I. L..” There is in it an overtone displaced. In the e.c. there is the fact of acting “for” the other (without serving the other’s personal interest), and overall “gratuitously” from our own point of view (without personal interest). So, it is not enough to say “no personal interest”, but there is also “action for the other.” Of course, store things in order that they could be easily found, doing what is to be done, but also the simple attention doing some good, and are the expressions of our human value. In fact, there is also the fact to go further than we believe we could do for the other (beware of the trap however) it is a sort of abnegation. (Abnegation: renunciation of your own interests in favor of the interests of others.)
As I feel it, external considering is a momentum that puts everything including ourselves, on the same plane, the same level, equally important, and so implies “erasing” the personal interest. Moreover e.c. sometimes sets up despite or even against my personal interest. There is also this dynamic of being impeccable: not to rush the action or realization. But without any perfectionism (it seems to me that perfectionism is generated by i.c., desire of recognition), but rather by respecting the internal ecology: knowing enough to stop if the body needs it, before the tension settles, and to stay firmly in this relaxed action. In these moments, the mind seems to erase partly: we find ourselves in the living action and less in the automatism, even if in my case the repeated assaults of the internal dialog under different forms (judgments, speeches, comments…) increase and try to appropriate the instant or action (and so distract it or pollute it). It seems to me that it is a facet of the essential value: to put oneself at the service of the life, not simply of the person who benefits from it, but to participate naturally in the momentum. That means, swim with the current and even participate in this current. Sometimes, in its expression (I think of some situation at my job where I have to play to the hot-line with people who don’t control the tool very well), I can “shake” the beneficiary while remaining respectful (neither mocking, nor scornful) but by forgetting in certain situations to be gentle… to finally satisfy the person. And like R., I often note that I lack e.c. with my daughters, who don’t loose an occasion to make me take a bite from a large piece of necessary suffering. It is hard to free myself from the “father’s role”, from this f…..g identification that requires for the other, respect, listening, and… consideration.
If we could actually enter into somebody and look out from behind their eyeballs. What would we see? What would we feel? What would they need? We would see the world as they see it. We would see ourselves as they see us. We could then respond to them from this understanding. We would see all of the person and respond to the whole rather than the abstracted fragment. This is my current view of the ideal of e.c. There is absolutely nothing in it for the personality. It is the movement of selfless Love.
For me e.c. is fueled by sincerity, humility, forgiveness and presence. I cannot say that I voluntarily practice it, it most often runs by itself, in the background, like a hidden computer software that is spying on the computer. However I have observed that in some instances where I am faced with people that I find unreasonable or difficult to deal with (like my neighbor or some administrator from the prefecture) my background software is not as effective as it could be and if I am sufficiently vigilant I catch myself not external considering and instead reacting to the situation.
External considering can only take place in the moment. In the fleeting instant, the other is not as important as me, he is more important than me (idem for the thing or the place). In my opinion, it represents the exact expression of the essential value. In that sense, it can’t be practiced, it is simply present at a given moment or it is not. It is something that goes through, on which I have absolutely no control apart from the fact that I can, upstream, create the conditions to permit this external consideration to express itself with the help of the work on oneself (vigilance, sincerity, work to eliminate internal consideration, and work on the emotional center in my case… etc.). As soon as I try to recover or control this thing that goes through, I fall into inner considering. I have observed that it is often what’s taking place in my case, when looking back on a situation.
External considering is to pay attention to the external visible, one’s environment in the moment, taking into account all of what is here, from oneself and from the others and just be in the openness of what is arriving now, with the action to be in this conscience of the bond that binds us together here. Then yes, it is an expression of the essential value depending on the context, as much as thinking to replace the toilet paper after throwing one away, as it is to recognize the other through a certain social “need to be”, or as denouncing without compassion the false feeling in the other’s expression, or as sharing the joy and complicity we are living together in the moment, only to be with, and manifest it.
I have the impression that the external considering is present when my internal dialog stops, when I don’t let it express itself.
Maurice Nicoll is the author of “Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky”. (5 volumes) In the third book, there are pieces on the 3 lines of the work, and also about external considering. Here are few extracts.
Extract (page 898): Nicoll: “I will give you one definition of external considering and its meaning. It was said on one occasion at the early Groups that external considering means to forget oneself and to think what the other wants, and it was added that in this way two results will follow. The first is that one can help, and the second is that one gets help. But if you really come to think about the whole question you will see that all real Self-Remembering is simply forgetting yourself, your ordinary self, your ordinary negative “I’s”, your ordinary forms of internal considering, and all the rest of it, and feeling certain that some further state of yourself exists above all this personal uproar that takes place all day long in each one of you, with which you keep on identifying, and when the Work says that we have Real “I” above us you must understand that this act, so to speak, of separating from False Personality, deliberately at some moment every day, is designed to make it possible for us to come in contact with the first traces of Real “I” which is already there and which is our real goal.” Note on external considering (page 1025). Quite natural question was asked at one of the sub-groups in connection with the last paper: “Can external considering be entirely divorced from internal considering?” Nicoll: “External considering is always conscious. It is anti-mechanical and so requires conscious effort. Internal considering is always mechanical and so effortless—that is, not conscious, but the work of the machine. To put yourself consciously in the position of another person and see yourself in him and him in yourself is a conscious act requiring conscious effort. Internal considering goes by itself and is mechanical. Just cheering up a person who is miserable is ordinary human and reasonable behavior, but if it is a question of the Work—and here the Second Line of Work comes in—you have to listen to the person internally and find the corresponding thing in yourself—that is, to reflect the person in yourself as by a mirror, finding the same thing in yourself and not denying it, and then the other person will undergo a change of state without your saying anything. You do not blame but accept and by doing this you make room for the other person to alter. We have, in the Second Line, to make room for others. This is quite different from helping the person in the ordinary sense, which is simply the blind leading the blind. External considering demands listening internally and finding the same thing in yourself—that is, if you have sufficient self-observation and self-knowledge. You cannot influence others if you do not know the other person in yourself.”
We are “privileged” to live what we are living, without judgement and a permanent reminder to live in external considering, because those who rub up against inner consideration, prick themselves with the remembering of the external considering of the “real I” which is already there, through the real listening to the other to get help, avoiding unnecessary suffering and accepting necessary suffering, only serves as a springboard to connect the “real I” which is already there in and to itself. I can also share a concrete example lived these last days in the context of managing my mother’s situation change within the family and their relationships: this change of state, caused of course emotional reactions on both sides, which I believe were devoid of step back and related to the side effects of treatment for pain that caused her “some delirium”, with visual hallucinations and a decline in general health, and the reality of the announcement of a life-threatening illness. The projections on each other and imagination from each according to their inner considering have caused, of course, conflicting relational situations, especially between my brother and my sister. The pain felt by my sister, from the very idea of losing my mother, plunged her into the fragility of his madness, and my brother in the incomprehension of his reactions and of the meaning of the words used, until she could not control herself, and fell into a state of acute agitated crisis. It was therefore necessary to intervene to prevent the worst, violence on her and on the other, with authority to keep my brother away and be alone with her, although both were in pain, but the priority was to bring help to my sister face the expression of dangerousness in the moment. And to find out how to help, I could only put aside what I could feel in this situation, to plug my nose not to feel all these hints of stench, to be in the forgetting of myself and just to be in the listening of what was necessary to meet the needs of the moment. I felt no compassion for her, in the sense of self-pity, but just accepted her suffering, without associating myself, detached even from any comparative or recognized suffering, just to listen to her needs in the moment without necessarily understanding everything, without judgment, just listening to what she said about our mother, in a state of disidentification listening to the difference seen as not separating. I physically reconciled with her by rocking her in my arms and holding her gently to avoid what she was expressing, her need to lacerate the body to find the reality to exist, her agitation searching for a sharp object, and her own fear of not being able to channel this feeling of violence in herself… The word came very easily, like a lullaby, and it was the word “confusion”, to replace the word echoed in madness, which resonated in her, and caused her a relief, a yes that she recognized in the incomprehension of her own madness against the incomprehension expressed by the other of his talks which she could not even remember. She could then relax in this yes of acceptance of confusion, and even if the damage was still present in her, with the questioning and guilt, she found the calm after the storm, and the lightning from the storm in her eyes turned into a fine rain that ran down her cheeks.
Some essential oils to soothe and leave her alone had become possible. Then, my brother, with tears of incomprehension and anger in him, helpless about the falling of power of words and solitude… I could only repeat him to let go of “the wanting to understand” to just accept, accept what it is, beyond our differences, that love for our mother was there in all its forms of expression, and the memory that our mother knew this well and it was this love that she needed at the moment, with each of us moving beyond the expression of our differences, and that it was useless to compare, but just do what was necessary to be done for each of us. So, yes, it takes a “conscious effort” not to “blame” to accept the suffering of others without associating oneself with it, with no projections, no comparisons, to forget oneself, to be only listening to the needs of the other because only the “real I” that is already there brings the help of the action “disidentified” from the non-separation, without no waiting, even of a result in the external consideration, and brought me the necessary assistance to myself. And for me with myself, beyond the projections of each other in the anticipation of what should be put in place to meet her needs, I remained attentive to her own requests with respect of her dignity, day by day… and without going into details, she recovered a life force in herself that made her taste the pleasures of the “sugar” of life that inhabits her and gives her the strength to end up in total lucidity in the acceptance of what life offers to her to live, and for now she is satisfied with the care and consideration that was shown her in the rehabilitation center where she is currently supported, just as she is supported by our presence at her side, one by one. And I decided to leave for a few days, go home and recharge my batteries a little from all the family hubbub, waiting to be faced with the next episode… I can see what I suspected as probable when life will point to the reality that must be accepted into the real of what she decides…
I had a problem of aggressiveness in my relationships with others, and I am convinced that it is through the listening without blame or judgment but with acceptance and benevolence that this problem was resolved, and also I really felt that there was an understanding lived in the moment (as explained by Nicoll) and not intellectual, and that the whole space was left to me, to express myself and that it is what (among other things) that allowed me to accept it and exceed/solve it, when I’m trying to see things like Nicoll describes them, I feel, that this occurred for me. Nicoll: “You have to listen to the person internally and find the corresponding thing in yourself that is, to reflect the person in yourself as by a mirror, finding the same thing in yourself and not denying it” and: “You do not blame but accept and by doing this you make room for the other person to alter. We have, in the Second Line, to make room for others.”
Gurdjieff: “The opposite of inner considering and what is in part a means of fighting against it is external considering. External considering is based upon an entirely different relationship towards people, to their understanding, to their requirements. By considering externally a man does that which makes life easy for other people and for himself. External considering requires a knowledge of men, an understanding of their tastes, habits, and prejudices. At the same time external considering requires a great power over oneself, a great control over oneself. Very often a man desires sincerely to express or somehow or other show to another man what he really thinks of him or feels about him. And if he is a weak man he will of course give way to this desire and afterwards justify himself and say that he did not want to lie, did not want to pretend, he wanted to be sincere. Then he convinces himself that it was the other man’s fault. He really wanted to consider him, even to give way to him, not to quarrel, and so on. But the other man did not at all want to consider him so that nothing could be done with him. It very often happens that a man begins with a blessing and ends with a curse. He begins by deciding not to consider and afterwards blames other people for not considering him. This is an example of how external considering passes into inner considering. But if a man really remembers himself he understands that another man is a machine just as he is himself. And then he will enter into his position, he will put himself in his place, and he will be really able to understand and feel what another man thinks and feels. If he can do this his work becomes easier for him. But if he approaches a man with his own requirements nothing except new inner considering can ever be obtained from it.”
I realized that I was meant to make an existential decision. Making the decision was to make myself available, to be open, attentive. To live in the unknown. Then when opportunities come, I was ready and available to respond. It is the same for external considering. To be available, to live in the unknown, to drop self so that I can take “right action” in the moment the opportunity comes for the other.
This metaphor came to me on existential decision after my last trip to France: there is a surfer. He has an aim/intention to ride a wave. The existential decision is to go to the sea and be on the water (open to the opportunity) and see if a wave comes in. Living the work. That is it. He can’t make a wave come out of the sea no matter his wanting or wishing. He can’t make the doing. Maybe a wave comes (grace). The wave is both the opportunity and the doing. Within the opportunity is the energy for the doing. The wave comes (opportunity) and he rides the wave (doing). But the surfer did neither. He had only made himself available (existential decision) to the wave (opportunity/doing.) Here there is a bit of work for the surfer: positioning, matching speed, etc. But do too much work and he will miss the wave too. Effortless effort. Maybe he catches the wave, maybe he does not. It does not matter in relation to the existential decision. If his aim is the same he will continue to wait. All he can do is make himself available. If he does, then he rides the wave to shore (to his intention or aim).